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The Trials and Tribulations of Wearable Tech

Last month, Oculus Rift CEO Brendan Iribe caused quite a stir when he announced his Virtual Reality (VR) company was now "researching Augmented Reality (AR)".  Of course, he was. Oculus Rift is an interesting example of a start-up utilising technology that has already become obsolete ahead of the release of their very first product. First, Google poked fun at those Oculus Rifters by releasing its how-to cheap cardboard version of the Oculus Rift awkward-looking clunky headgear, and then last year, Microsoft and Sony came out with "mixed reality" holographic glasses, which eventually became completely eclipsed by Estar-Takee's release of their holographic mobile phones this past January, no headgear nor glasses needed. 

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Google released their own cardboard version of the VR headset, poking fun at Oculus Rift after the latter's much publicised $2 billion acquisition by Facebook

All of this must've been quite a shock for Oculus Rift, whose VR technology was once considered cutting edge, and now already obsolete- a kind of clunky wordprocesser in the time of tablet computers. VR headsets will be available for commerical sale sometime soon, however, let's face it: No one wants to buy a $350+ heavy headgear that utilises obsolete technology, and also been known to cause nausea and headaches. 

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An illustration from 1818, titled "Human Nonsense." (Photo: Public Domain/WikiCommons). The  Kaleidoscope was a popular trend in Victorian England, until the passing fancy simply disappeared. 

Although to be fair, Google Glass was also pulled off the market when users started complaining of headaches, although their PR machine focused on the privacy issues, the real issue was that the high levels of electromagnetic (EMF) radiation via non-ionizing radiation, in the radio-frequency (RF) range in operation + the battery located right next to the brain + wifi signal, had unknown potential long-term side effects in that Google themselves advised that children not utilise their product. In the USA, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has set a SAR (Specific Absorption Rate) limit of 1.6 W/kg, averaged over a volume of 1 gram of tissue, for the head. In Europe, the limit is 2 W/kg, averaged over a volume of 10 grams of tissue. According to the SAR Evaluation Report for Google Glass by UL CCS, the highest 1-g SAR in head for Glass is measured to be 1.110 W/kg, which comes from its Wi-Fi antenna. Since Google Glass has a SAR level below the safety limit of 1.6 W/kg, it is considered “safe” according to the FCC safety guideline. I'm not sure what the SAR rating is for the Oculus Rift googles, but I extrapolate that it's probably a little higher than Google Glass.

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AppleWatch, on the other hand, differs from Google Glass because it does not emit the same high levels of EMF radiation as your mobile phone; instead, it connects to your mobile phone via bluetooth technology, and in the moderate range or considerably lower than the levels emitting from your mobile phone. But who knows for sure which levels are actually safe? The FCC says those SAR levels are safe for short term use or acute exposure (30-60 min), but it could be that they may actually not be so as with nascent technology utilised over long-term. After all, the US government used to say that radiation from nuclear bombs was safe and exposed their own soldiers to cancer-causing radiation at Bikini Beach in 1946, all the while, telling all the local residents there that they had nothing to worry about and could return to their homes at the nuclear testing sites.

A scene from the 1982 documentary The Atomic Cafe, which reveals how the US government purposely mislead their own citizens and soldiers into becoming unwitting subjects during the nuclear testing site at Bikini Beach in 1946. Years later, nearly all the soldiers involved in the Bikini beach nuclear test developed radiation illness and cancer. 

However, imho, the trend seems pretty clear that aside from SmartWatches, we are actually moving away from wearable tech. No one wants to be wearing glasses that give you headaches and lazy eye syndrome, and no one wants to be wearing a clunky set of googles that looks like a medieval torture device.

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Despite the smiling model, the first generation Oculus Rift googles resemble a Medieval torture device. Subsequent models have not seen much improvement. 

To be honest, I never even liked laptops simply because I was quite sensitive to typing on the heat-emanating keyboard which I felt interfered with my thinking processes. Back in the early 2000s, I would take an extra external keyboard with me on trips and connect the USB port into my laptop, just so that I wouldn't have direct contact with the laptop keyboard. When iPads came out, I was elated, because it replaced my laptop altogether, and its bluetooth keyboard was great, simply because I wasn't absorbing all the EMF radiation from the traditional laptop keyboard.

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Emeralds are made from crystallised chromium and vanadium, both of which have been widely publicised as therapeutic for certain conditions such as diabetes, with the latter (vanadium) shown to increase a person's sensitivity to insulin. Julius Caesar collected emeralds and was quite fond of them, and considered them to have medicinal value, which he gave to Cleopatra, whose favourite gem was also the lush, vivid green emerald. 

In regards to wearable tech jewellery, and even SmartClothing, I'm not sure that I want to adorn a plastic, post-modern set of minimalist looking rings, bracelets and necklaces that tell me when someone is emailing, texting or ringing me, or even, monitoring my physical activity. Those aren't the must-have features for me. However, if my earrings and rings could do cool stuff, like project holograms and play music, then that could possibly be enticing, but I could probably just do that with my mobile phone, tablet or SmartWatch, and I'll leave the silky touch of gold, silver and platinum or even sapphires, emeralds and pearls for direct contact with my skin, rather than a device in which I absorb its EMF radiation.